Meet the Building Movement Project team and staff.
The BMP Staff is comprised of committed individuals who bring a diversity of professional backgrounds and expertise to the organization's work on leadership, movement building, and service and social change.
Director, Race Equity Assessment
Mercedes Brown is the Director of Race Equity Assessment at the Building Movement Project. In this new role, she is charged with launching and bringing to scale BMP’s new organizational race equity assessment process to better equip the nonprofit sector with the foundational capacities needed to build more racially equitable workplaces. Mercedes brings deep expertise in public policy, data analytics, and equitable cross-systems transformation through nearly 17 years of experience in the social services sector. Throughout her career in government and the nonprofit sector, she has always led with her passion for advancing social and racial justice through complex systems change.
Before joining the Building Movement Project staff, she served as Michigan Director at the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), where she established CSH’s strategic priorities for the State of Michigan and managed a statewide portfolio of cross-sector projects aimed at ensuring equitable access to high-quality housing and services for marginalized communities. Mercedes holds a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Michigan, where she currently works as a part-time lecturer teaching policy and community organizing courses. She also holds a Juris Doctor from Western Michigan University. Mercedes serves on the Board of Directors for the Washtenaw Housing Alliance and the United Way of Washtenaw County’s Community Impact Committee. In her spare time, Mercedes enjoys baking, dabbling in interior design work, and traveling with her fiancé.
Senior Director, Detroit People’s Platform
Linda S. Campbell
Linda Campbell works on Building Movement Project’s Nonprofits and Social Change project with groups in Detroit, Michigan, and throughout the U.S. and Canada. Linda leads Building Movement Detroit and provides technical assistance and capacity building to nonprofit agencies and resident-led organizations. Prior to her consulting work, Linda served in a variety of senior and executive positions in the nonprofit and government sectors. She was the executive director for one of NYC’s oldest AIDS service organizations, Minority Task Force on AIDS, and a senior director at both the Michigan Public Health Institute and the National Center for Health Education. She served as a founding board member for several community-based nonprofits. In the past two years, Linda has provided planning assistance to local African American Health Institute initiatives in Michigan. Linda holds a master’s degree in public health from the University of Michigan.
After working with the Building Movement Project as the research and data intern, Tessa joined the BMP staff full-time as a research analyst. Before joining BMP, Tessa worked as a student researcher at Carthage College where she collaborated with the Shalom Center local food pantry, using data analysis and mapping software to target areas of need in the local inner city, eventually establishing a series of hot meal sites for local food pantry recipients. Tessa has several years of research experience, including a series of large-scale surveys on perceptions of diversity, equity, and inclusion within a higher education campus community. Tessa received a bachelor’s degree in sociology and psychology from Carthage College in Kenosha, W.I. in 2018 and her master’s from Columbia University in sociology in 2019, where her research interests mainly centered on indigenous peoples’ rights, particularly indigenous language revitalization.
Finance, Grants and Operations Manager
Maggie Deptola (she/her) is the Finance, Grants and Operations Manager for the Building Movement Project. She is responsible for building and maintaining systems that support the organization’s administrative functions.
Maggie is passionate about economic mobility, educational equity, and capacity-building for nonprofits. Her previous roles include consulting with local and state governments on topics such as capacity-building and program design, a brief stint in tech, and supporting a variety of nonprofits in program and operations roles. Most recently, she served as the first Chief Operating Officer of Coded by Kids, a Philadelphia-based tech education nonprofit serving K-12 students ages in the mid-Atlantic region.
Maggie has a bachelor’s degree in international area studies from Drexel University and a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Pennsylvania. She serves as the Vice Chair of the Philadelphia Robotics Coalition.
Senior Director, Strategic Initiatives
Deepa Iyer is Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives at Building Movement Project where she builds projects, resources, and narratives that support nonprofits and individuals engaged in transformative movements for progressive social change. Her work includes creating the social change ecosystem map, and coordinating SolidarityIs, an initiative that trains people through Solidarity Schools, provides narratives via the Solidarity Is This podcast, and fosters multiracial and cross-movement connections. Iyer is a South Asian American writer, lawyer, strategist, and facilitator whose areas of expertise include the post 9/11 America experiences of South Asian, Muslim, Arab and Sikh immigrants, immigration and civil rights policies, and racial equity and solidarity practices. Iyer has worked at various national and local organizations with a focus on immigrant and racial justice. She served as executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) for a decade and has also held positions at Race Forward, the US Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center, and the Asian American Justice Center. Iyer’s first book, We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future (The New Press 2015), received a 2016 American Book Award. She hosts a podcast called Solidarity Is This to explore solidarity practices around the country. Iyer has received fellowships from Open Society Foundations and the Social Change Initiative, and in 2019, she received an honorary doctoral degree from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Iyer serves on the Advisory Council of the Emergent Fund, which resources grassroots organizing and power building in communities of color. An immigrant who moved to Kentucky from India when she was twelve, Iyer graduated from the University of Notre Dame Law School and Vanderbilt University.
Frances Kunreuther co-directs the Building Movement Project, strengthening U.S. nonprofits as sites of civic engagement and social change. She is co-author of two books, From the Ground Up: Grassroots Organizations Making Social Change (Cornell, 2006) and Working Across Generations: Defining the Future of Nonprofit Leadership (Jossey Bass, 2009). Frances was a senior fellow at the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University for five years and is currently affiliated with the Research Center for Leadership and Action at NYU where she also teaches. In the 1990s, Frances headed the Hetrick-Martin Institute for LBGT youth and was awarded an Annie E. Casey Foundation Fellowship for her work with homeless youth and families, undocumented immigrants, crime victims, battered women, and substance users. She writes and presents frequently on issues related to nonprofits, leadership, and social change.
Networks and Learning Practice Coordinator
Olivia Peña is excited to support communities and networks across the country as the Networks and Learning Practice Coordinator. Before joining the Building Movement Project, Olivia supported food security initiatives across the state of Vermont through outreach, capacity building for social service providers, and advocacy to strengthen access to SNAP, WIC, and school meal programs. She studied at the University of Vermont, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Food Systems in 2017, and a Master’s Degree in Food Systems in 2018. Olivia has supported and published research on state, regional, national, and international levels on topics including community engagement, resilience, advocacy, and climate change mitigation. As a passionate community advocate, Olivia is committed to supporting equity and access to basic human needs such as food, housing, and healthcare.
Senior Research Manager
Lisa Ramadhar is the Senior Research Manager at Building Movement Project. She is a changemaker who uses inquiry to define problems and identify solutions to social issues. Led by her inquisitiveness, Lisa has built a career in research and evaluation, supporting projects in various sectors by illuminating patterns and insights that drive decision-making and solutions. Most recently, her work focused on embedding equity in a local government agency. As senior evaluator and acting director of that project, Lisa identified pay parity and living wage as key equity goals, and worked with her team and a group of changemakers across the agency to successfully advocate for leadership to address those inequities. Having worked on equity issues in large and complex organizations, Lisa is skilled at devising mixed methods research projects that aim to uncover the full story and inform strategic solutions.
Lisa has also served on the Steering Committee of Jahajee Sisters. Jahajee Sisters is a movement building organization that uses arts activism to eliminate gender-based violence in Indo-Caribbean communities. As an Indo-Guyanese immigrant and survivor, this is deeply personal work for her.
Lisa brings her curiosity, experience with strategic planning and culture change, and love of people and community to her work at Building Movement Project to strengthen the nonprofit sector.
New Mexico Coordinator
Leah Steimel coordinates New Mexico-based program efforts for Building Movement Project and has guided the development and implementation of the Common Good Action Project (CGAP) since its inception in 2015. Steimel has worked in the field of community health for over 30 years, with an emphasis on program design and policy advocacy to serve underserved and marginalized populations. After working in Latin America for eight years, she moved to New Mexico in 1995 where she led programs and initiatives at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center focused on addressing health disparities and access to care for immigrants, Native Americans, and adults living in poverty. Steimel then served as executive director of a non-profit organization serving immigrants in southeast Albuquerque, and as executive director of a free clinic for uninsured children in Santa Fe, NM, before returning to UNM in 2006 as founding director of the Office of Community Affairs. There, she facilitated broad stakeholder participation in program planning and advocacy to leverage public funding for a new community-based program to connect poor and disconnected adults to health and social services. The program, Pathways to a Healthy Bernalillo County, has continuously operated through local nonprofit organizations for over 10 years and has served thousands of adults in the city. Steimel formed an independent consultant business in 2013 and works with nonprofit organizations and government entities. Steimel received a Master’s degree from Tulane University School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine in 1989.
Sean Thomas-Breitfeld co-directs the Building Movement Project. Prior to joining the BMP staff, Sean spent a decade working in various roles at Community Change, where he developed training programs for grassroots leaders, worked in the communications and policy departments where he coordinated online and grassroots advocacy efforts, and lobbied on a range of issues, including immigration reform, transportation equity, and anti-poverty programs. Before joining Community Change, Sean worked as a policy analyst at UnidosUS, where he focused on employment and income security issues. Sean holds a Master’s in Public Administration from NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service and a bachelor’s degree in social work and multicultural studies from St. Olaf College in Minnesota.
Movement Building Associate
UyenThi Tran Myhre
UyenThi (pronounced “Wing-T”) Tran Myhre (she/her) is the Movement Building Associate with the Building Movement Project, supporting communications work, curriculum development and trainings, and solidarity cohorts.
Prior to joining BMP, UyenThi held leadership roles at the YMCA of the North Equity Innovation Center and the University of Minnesota Women’s Center, where she worked with college students, K-12 and higher education faculty and staff, as well as nonprofit professionals in various sectors. She holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism and Certificate in Gender and Women’s Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Master’s in Educational Psychology from the University of Minnesota.
UyenThi is interested in storytelling and narrative-shifting as strategies for social change and creating a better world. She is part of the team at Project Yellow Dress, a platform uplifting voices and stories from the Southeast Asian diaspora. As a daughter of refugees, writer, and facilitator, her work explores the intersections of family, feminism, abolition, and beyond, often through a pop culture lens.
The BMP Project Team (PT) advises the organization on its strategic direction and provides input on members expertise and experience in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors.
Associate Director of Learning and Evaluation - The Duke Endowment
Laila Bell is the associate director of learning and evaluation at The Duke Endowment. Before joining the Endowment in 2017, Bell was director of research and data at NC Child, a statewide nonprofit in Raleigh advancing public policies that improve the lives of North Carolina’s children. Prior to NC Child, Bell worked from 2010 to 2013 as the director of research and data at Action for Children North Carolina and previously served as an analyst for the Texas KIDS COUNT project at the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Laila worked at the Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV) where she researched public policy, evidence-based practices, and the impact of family violence on children. During her tenure at TCFV, Laila created the Texas Family Violence Service Directory, an interactive tool that connects service providers to information about curricula and best practices. A native of South Carolina, Laila holds a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, and a bachelor’s degree with double majors in political science and psychology from Winthrop University.
Coach - The Management Center
Marissa Graciosa joined the Building Movement Project in 2019 as senior advisor and project team member, bringing her many years of experience in community organizing, coalition building, and racial justice. Prior to joining BMP, she held several roles at Planned Parenthood Federation of America as the director of strategic initiatives, spearheading the internal racial equity transformation for the advocacy division, and as the national director of organizing providing leadership through unprecedented attacks at the state and federal levels. Before joining PPFA, she worked for over a decade in the immigrant rights movement; as the director of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) at the Center for Community Change, and in national efforts led by the Alliance for Citizenship and the Reform Immigration for America Campaign. She played key roles in the mass immigrant mobilizations of 2006 and 2010 and helped build organizing and electoral capacity in key states through training, coaching, and strategic consulting. She has led numerous issue and political campaigns, including a Chicago aldermanic race, the non-partisan voter registration, and mobilization work of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. Marissa received her bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Chicago and Master in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She lives in Chicago with her beautiful blended family, including a feisty toddler, Emiliano.
Executive Vice President of Public Affairs - The New Teacher Project
As executive vice president of public affairs, David McKinney sets the vision, culture, and goals of The New Teacher Project’s communications and community engagement efforts. Prior to this role, David served as the first director of the Center for Engagement and Neighborhood Building at the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities in Washington, D.C., and supported a network of nearly 500 organizations to more effectively engage with the neighborhoods and constituencies they served. He previously worked at Public Allies, a national service and leadership development organization, where he held numerous positions including vice president of programs and vice president of strategy and development. During his 14-year tenure with Public Allies, David led the growth of the organization’s programming and operations from 10 to 23 cities and increased opportunities for young adults to launch and grow their careers in community-based and social sector organizations. David was honored with an Aspen Institute Fellowship for emerging nonprofit leaders in 2010 and selected by Independent Sector as an American Express NGen Fellow in 2009. David began his career as a community organizer in his hometown of Milwaukee and holds a bachelor’s degree in education policy and community studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Building Community Portfolio Director - Meyer Memorial Trust
Dahnesh Medora, Building Community Portfolio Director at Meyer, is motivated to find ways to contribute and learn at the same time. His passion for exploring ways to connect ideas and influences that originate from different places drew Dahnesh to join Meyer in 2015. Having the benefit of growing up with different cultural influences and working with a variety of organizations and leaders, he cultivated a taste for variety and combinations. He believes nonprofit and social benefit organizations address our community’s most pressing needs and building their capacity builds our collective capacity to create lasting social change. Prior to joining Meyer, Dahnesh served as the senior associate for nonprofit support at Education Northwest, providing capacity building and leadership development support to nonprofits and governmental agencies at the local, state, and national level. As director of programs and senior consultant at the Nonprofit Association of Oregon and as director of organizational services at the National Community Development Institute, Dahnesh designed and managed capacity building programs focused on communities of color. Dahnesh also supported new and emerging social justice projects while serving as director of external relations at Tides.
Executive Vice President - Community Coalition
Aurea Montes-Rodriguez is the executive vice president at Community Coalition and has been with the organization for more than 20 years. Born in Mexico and raised in south Los Angeles, Aurea has been a key leader responsible for building the organization’s youth programs to fight for educational equity, leading efforts to keep children in family care and out of the foster care system, helping to build organizing capacity in south L.A., and leading a capital campaign to transform the organization’s headquarters into a state-of-the-art hub for community organizing. Aurea is co-founder of Partners for Children South LA, a multiagency initiative that improves child development and reduces the risk of involvement with the child welfare system. She is an ex-officio board member with InnerCity Struggle.
Simran Noor is an independent consultant focused on strategy development, institutional change/organizational development and movement building with a focus on developing processes and setting clear outcomes to achieve racial equity. She was most recently a Senior Fellow at the new Race Forward. Previously, Simran served as the Center for Social Inclusion’s Vice President of Policy & Programs. During that time, she was also Deputy Director of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE). Prior to joining CSI, Simran served as Program Manager at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation where she worked with the Food, Health & Well-being, Racial Equity, and Civic & Community Engagement portfolios. She also served as Program Assistant at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, where she supported the Policy Research and KIDS COUNT teams. Simran has also written and commented for a variety of media and was a featured panelist on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry. Simran is also a regular speaker on issues of racial equity. She currently also serves as a board member for South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) and as advisor for the Neighborhood Funders Group’s Funders for Justice group.